How to Lose a Prospect in 10 Seconds. What Not to Do when Cold-Calling

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In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, columnist Andie Anderson (played by Kate Hudson) wants to earn the respect of her editor and get the opportunity to write on more meatier subjects. So she decides to pen an article about what women do to drive men away—a sort of reverse “how to” dating guide. As part of her research, she plans to attract a man and do all the things a woman shouldn’t do in the beginning of a relationship to see how long it takes to frighten him off.

Unbeknownst to her, the test subject she chooses, ad exec Ben Barry (Matthew McConaughey), also has a hidden agenda. In order to convince his boss to give him a prestigious diamond account, he must make good on his boast that he understands women so well he can make any woman “fall in love with him in less than two weeks.” So no matter what Andie does (including Photoshopping their faces together in a bizarre, mutant-like composite “to see what our kids would look like”), Ben hangs in there rather than running for his life like any normal member of the male species would.

I suppose members of both sexes have done things to drive that special someone away and then wondered, “What the heck happened?” So here’s my reverse “how-to” guide for losing a prospect in 10 seconds (or less) when cold-calling.

Start off with “How are you today?”

Pretend that you actually care how he is and completely disregard the fact that the person on the other end of the line knows that you don’t, but now feels obligated to respond with, “I’m fine. How are you?”

Don’t even think about the fact that you just wasted seven seconds of his time or how this is even more annoying than if you just got right to the point, told him why you’re calling, and asked for the appointment.

Ask “Is this is a good time?”

Or an even better question is, “Did I catch you at a bad time?” Since you’re an intrusion, you need to give your prospect every opportunity to get rid of you before actually telling him why you’re calling. After all, it’s the polite thing to do.

As an added bonus, you can also let your prospect know that you appreciate “how busy he is” and that you’ll “be brief.” The beauty of this technique is that, while promising to be brief, you are actually wasting even more of his time.

By combining this with the previous question, you can manage to take up 45 seconds or more before ever getting to your point.

Don’t Use a Script

Convince yourself that using a script will cause you to sound “like I’m reading a script.” Completely ignore the fact that writing out in advance what you will say and then practising it so you sound completely natural is more effective than just “winging it.” Never mind that actors get paid millions of dollars and win Academy Awards for doing just that.

Just Open the Yellow Pages and Start Dialing

Since buying a list costs money, go ahead and use the Yellow Pages to call from. Define your target as “small to medium-sized businesses,” or better yet—“anyone who needs a website.” Convince yourself that targeting a niche or segment will cause you to “miss somebody” who might want or need your services.

And don’t even think about targeting companies who are similar to your best clients (assuming you even have any clients), because that type of research takes time.

Agonize over How You Are “Bothering” People

If people get annoyed because you called, be sure to dwell on this rather than what you’re trying to accomplish (i.e., finding new clients). To ensure you sound properly apologetic, use wishy-washy phrases like “I’m just calling because …” and “I was wondering if …”

Avoid Calling “Too Often”

After you’ve called once and think the receptionist might recognize your voice, be sure to wait long enough for her to forget before calling again. (After all, receptionists have nothing better to do than memorize the voice of every telemarketer that calls.) Better yet, if you can’t reach the decision-maker after the first call, just don’t call them again. Ever.

Be Very Indirect when Asking for the Appointment

When you do reach a decision-maker, it’s important that you feel very guilty about “interrupting” them. To convey your sense of guilt, make sure you’re very indirect when asking for an appointment. Rather than a direct question, such as, “I could meet with you one day this week. What day is good for you?” say something like, “I’m not sure if that’s something you might be interested in, but I was wondering if maybe we could meet sometime.” Then scratch your head in confusion when they tell you they’re “not interested” and hang up on you.

Take “No” for an Answer Every Time

Be sure to ignore the common objections you’ll most often hear, because trying to overcome them would be … well, rude. Never mind that 25 percent of the appointments you set will be with people who first told you “No.”

Don’t Invest in Any Type of Training

Completely ignore all of the training resources and programs that are available. And don’t even think about taking a temporary, part-time sales or telemarketing job to get some actual experience, because that would be “absolutely ridiculous.” Come on, taking a sales job to get some sales experience? How preposterous.

Give up and Conclude that Cold-Calling Is a “Waste of Time”

Hey, you gave it your best shot. Just go back to what you were doing (if anything) and hope for the best. And be sure to be extremely rude to any telemarketers who have the misfortune of calling you.

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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